Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life.
— William Stafford, “Ask Me”
Is a life defined by what we have done? How do we look at our lives and see within them an overarching purpose? How do we ascertain whether we are living in a way that truly reflects our sense of life’s purpose?
Questions about a life purpose come and go for us throughout the course of our journey, rising whenever a gap develops between what we do and what we may be called to do, between the outer shape of a life and the inner meaning of a life. Those questions may show up in the form of restlessness or boredom, a compulsion to be busier than ever or, in opposite fashion, a deepening depression that says life has lost its purpose, its meaning.
One strategy for looking at life purpose involves tracing through your life the different homes in which you have lived. Call up memories of those homes, look for what great passions, what loves and dreams, were present when you lived in each home. And when you moved to a new home, how did your primary ambitions, your goals, change or not change?
Stafford’s image invites seeing two levels of life, the level in which we are totally self-directed, and a deeper level in which we align ourselves with a larger direction that is a life consisting of more than just what one does. Is the life you are presently living in alignment with the deeper life that draws you towards meaning?